First Person: Johna Burke, Global Managing Director of AMEC

Johna Burke is the Global Managing Director of AMEC, but she would also consider a job creating the new Cards Against Humanity—and a lot of people think she'd be perfect for that gig. Burke infuses a deep knowledge of public relations and PR measurement with a natural humor and energy that has her frequently on the speaker circuit bringing color to some of the more analytical parts of the profession.

Johna Burke

During a career spanning over 25 years, Johna has worked both as a public relations practitioner and a provider of services that are vital to the successful performance of communications professionals. Prior to leading AMEC, Johna was CMO at BurrellesLuce and previously the director of public and investor relations of a Fortune 500 company. In 2015 she was inducted into the PRNEWS Measurement Hall of Fame for her work and leadership in the community.

Here's Johna Burke, in her own words:

My first job in PR was: PR and IR director for U-Haul International. Luckily, this Fortune 500 company believes in investing in their people and developing talent from within. I was a technical writer and my exposure to the senior team gave them confidence to take the chance on someone without a classic PR background.

I chose PR because: I was young and eager for a new challenge. I was a news junkie from way back and thought this would be FUN!

If I weren’t in PR, I’d be: Perhaps I would be working on new Cards Against Humanity. When they were recently looking for talent I had way too many people suggest I would be perfect for the job. Curious.

The last great business book I read was: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. It was more good than ‘great’, but it did make me take inventory of my digital consumption and reinforce being present. The more communicators bury themselves in their screen they are less present and risk missing important business and leadership cues necessary to advance.

The best personal advice I’ve ever received was: Keep a smile in your voice. It was my boss’ version of don’t let situations rattle you and if they do don’t feed the negative energy with an angry voice. GENIUS!

The best advice I’ve given is: Don’t let anyone live rent free in your Penthouse (head). A nice way of saying ‘let that shit GO!’. It’s a lesson most of us have to learn the hard way, but the less time we spend focused on the past the more we can find joy in each moment and build a stronger future.

If I could solve one big challenge for communicators, it would be: Give them to the tools and network to demonstrate the value of communication to their organization. It’s no accident I  took the role as Global Managing Director for AMEC last year in an effort to pursue my passion to up-skill communicators everywhere!

The last vacation I took was: I went to Vegas for a  few days to play in a poker tournament. It’s a great escape and if you’re playing to win you can only focus on the odds and the other players leaving all other distractions behind. I didn’t win, but finished at the final table.

The technology I can’t live without is: My phone. It allows me to be in my office from anyplace in the world where I can get decent wifi.

The technology I could certainly live without is: ‘Hey Google’. If I want music played or lights turned on I can do both of those things with my phone so don’t see the reason to confuse my dog by randomly calling out to Google while at home.

My dream three dinner guests would be:

Queen Elizabeth II - I am absolutely in awe of this woman. To talk about the people (world leaders) she has met, her views on equality, love of dogs, her crisis management wins and losses over the years, and find out what is inher little purse. She is an icon of grace, plus I think she might have a wicked sense of humor!

Sergei Brin - He co-founded Google, enough said.

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel – His work in neuroscience is fascinating and I 100 percent believe we all need a better understanding of neuroscience in order to program and separate ourselves from the AI future.

And I’d serve them: Bolgonese. I’m a disaster in the kitchen, but I make a good Bolognese and who doesn’t like Italian night?! We would have cheesecake with a topping bar for dessert.

Want to be considered for First Person? Contact content director Melissa Hoffmann at mhoffmann@accessintel.com